I have fond memories of Wilted Spinach Salad as a kid. It was the only way I would eat spinach. I wouldn’t touch the canned or frozen stuff if my life depended on it. Even today the thought of canned spinach makes me gag and while I do often use frozen spinach I only use it if it is an ingredient in a recipe. If I am sauteing spinach it has to be fresh or forget it. But as I kid I was even more prejudiced against spinach and Wilted Spinach Salads were the only way I’d eat the stuff. I’ve long gotten over my fear of fresh spinach, but still, every summer when fresh spinach is in season my favorite way to eat the stuff is loaded with bacon, onion and hard boiled eggs, all dressed in a sweet, smoky, warm dressing.
The key to a good Wilted Spinach Salad is to get just the right amount of wilt to it. Some people add so much hot dressing and end up literally cooking the spinach completely, while others I’ve had have been barely dressed with lukewarm dressing. I found the trick is to dress the salad a bit at a time, tossing between each addition. This way you control the amount of dressing and how much the salad will wilt. As for how hot the dressing should be. Once the dressing boils and the sugar dissolves, remove from heat and as soon as the dressing stops bubbling, start drizzling it over the greens but again, go slow or you will end up cooking your spinach which is not the goal here.
You will also notice I use 2 kinds of onions, both red onion and those canned fried onions. I love onion and those fried things are one of my secret indulgences. If you don’t like onions as much as I do you can leave one, or both, of those ingredients out.
Wilted Spinach Salad
serves 4 as a side salad or 2 as a main course salad
3 slices bacon (preferably thick cut) cut into 1/4″ strips
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup malt vinegar (you can use any variety of vinegar, but I prefer malt, sherry, or cider vinegar for this dressing)
1/2 cup salad oil
1/4 tsp. toasted sesame oil (optional)
1 pound fresh spinach leaves, stems removed
1/4 red onion, thinly julienned
3 hard boiled eggs, peeled and sliced*
1/3 cup canned fried onion rings (Durkee is the most popular brand)
In an nonreactive skillet fry the bacon until brown and crispy. Remove the bacon from the pan, leaving the bacon fat behind, in the pan. Add the sugar, vinegar and both oils. Stir constantly and allow the dressing to come to an easy boil. Remove from heat. Place spinach, both onions, sliced eggs and reserved bacon pieces in a large metal bowl. Drizzle a bit of the hot dressing over the salad and toss gently. Repeat drizzling and tossing until salad is dressed as you like it. You will probably have a bit of dressing left over. Divide among 2 or 4 plates and serve immediately.
*To get the perfect hard boiled egg. Start the eggs in cool water. Bring to a gentle boil and boil for exactly 13 minutes. Remove from heat and cool immediately in cold, running water.